Dancing/Reading/Writing: Performative Potentials of Intra-Active Teaching Pedagogies Expanding Literacy Education

Sofia Jusslin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles

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This thesis contributes to the fields of creative dance and literacy education by developing teaching pedagogies that integrate creative dance into students’ reading and writing processes and by exploring what is produced in the intra-actions between dancing, reading, and writing. The thesis is methodologically conducted as educational design research alongside artsbased research strategies. The research has been conducted by a design team, including a researcher, a dance teaching artist, and two primary school teachers, who integrated creative dance into fifth-grade students’ literacy education in Finland. The thesis is onto-epistemologically positioned within the field of new materialism, and more specifically Karen Barad’s agential realism, which moves beyond an anthropocentric ontology and perceives knowledge as created in relations between human and nonhuman bodies. The overarching research problem for the thesis is: How can the material-discursive phenomenon of creative dance integration in students’ reading and writing processes be produced and elaborated as intraactive teaching pedagogies?

Four studies were conducted, and these were diffractively (re)read, guided by the research problem. The results demonstrate how creative dance can contribute to literacy education by requiring students to deepen and broaden their reading and writing processes. Moreover, dance broadens literacy by expanding students’ meaning-making regarding materiality, relationality, and embodiment. Based on the results of the four studies, the material-discursive phenomenon of creative dance integration in students’ reading and writing processes can be produced and elaborated as intra-active teaching pedagogies by turning the focus towards problematizing the intra-active relations between the means of making meaning: dancing, reading, and writing. These relations are theorized as dancing/reading/writing in the intra-active teaching pedagogies, which acknowledges that the means of making meaning are entangled. Dancing/reading/writing uses the proposed Dance Literacy Model for Schools as the pedagogical basis and produces and is produced in educational theory/practice, where certain materialities can become performative agents. Moreover, any teacher with knowledge of both creative dance and literacy can implement the intra-active teaching pedagogies.

The results culminate in 10 performative potentials that make something happen in the teaching, learning, and meaning-making when integrating creative dance in students’ reading and writing processes. The performative potentials include pedagogical focus, teacher and/or artist collaboration, timeframes, space, literary text selection, creativity and authorship, music and rhythm instruments, student collaboration, teacher support, and performing as process. These performative potentials can act as transdisciplinary lenses for literacy education to meet a future that requires 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration: creative dance can contribute with new performative potentials to develop literacy education in valuable and meaningful ways from within. Accordingly, dance has the performative potential to change how literacy education is perceived and practiced.

In conclusion, the purpose of the developed intra-active teaching pedagogies is fundamentally to benefit both students and teachers in providing them with meaningful opportunities for teaching and learning, with equal pedagogical emphasis on dancing, reading, and writing. Taken together, both dance and literacy have the potential to contribute to each other in contemporary educational contexts if they are meaningfully combined.
Original languageEnglish
  • Heilä-Ylikallio, Ria, Supervisor
  • Østern, Tone Pernille, Supervisor, External person
Place of PublicationÅbo
Print ISBNs978-952-12-3997-7
Electronic ISBNs978-952-12-3998-4
Publication statusPublished - 2020
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • creative dance
  • Educational Design Research
  • entanglement
  • intra-action
  • literacy education
  • new materialism
  • performative potential


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